Moonshadow, my grayish Shetland wether, was in need of shearing. His fleece was gorgeous – mostly bur-free and clean.
By spring it would be longer than most fiber mills care to handle – I’m thinking it was about 4″ long at this point. Over winter it would get dirtier as well. It needed to be done soon so some could grow back and keep him insullated over winter. I figured – How tough could shearing one animal be? I’d received a used electric shearer (Thanks, Meg!) so set to the task. I had tied him with a dog collar around his horns to the trailer hitch on my truck. Well… after uncovering just a 9 by 12″ patch of skin the poor dude was about ready for a transfusion. The blades were as dull as I’d been warned they would be and my emery cloth treatment apparently hadn’t helped.
I headed over to an Amish neighbor who sheared for me in 2013. He said he would do it but he was swamped and I’d need to bring Moonshadow to him and … I chose not to impose and headed back home. This time I took out an instrument labeled as an “antique, English-made” hand shearer, touched it up with the angle grinder and whet stone, and started in.
It took over an hour of being bent almost double, but I got it done. Periodic breaks to unkink the spine seemed to be appreciated by Moonshadow, too. I was able to pull the cut wool away from the work area so had very few second cuts, so the quality of the harvested wool is quite good.
I was glad I had the extra fiber length to work with. I wouldn’t want to do it with the shorter-stapled Babydolls, but know I could if I had to. I didn’t cut super close so he shouldn’t get chilled. The extended handling made him calmer (resigned?), not freaked out as I had feared.
The chance to have my own Shetland wool to work with in a couple different shades is exciting. I partially skirted the fleece until other duties intruded. It was easier than skirting the Babydolls’ – cleaner and over 95% of the locks exceded the minimum staple length for my processor (2″). I separated the wool into silver and cream piles so will have at least 2 color lots.
I’ve recovered to the point of considering shearing the other Shetland wether, Noir, too, for a third shade (black).
That means I would have to catch him, though …